Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Big PC Makers Grow Juggling Borader Demands

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Big PC Makers Grow Juggling Borader Demands

Article excerpt

By Evan Ramstad

Associated Press

NEW YORK _ The personal computer industry keeps getting smaller as it gets bigger.

Two years after the biggest makers cut prices down to the levels of their discount rivals, they continue to take a larger share of overall personal computer sales, putting the squeeze on smaller firms.

As the annual PC Expo begins today, it is clear that brand names have become more important to customers during the past year. The world's 10 largest PC makers were responsible for half the 10 million units shipped in the first quarter this year, up from 44 percent a year ago, according to International Data Corp.

The names in that Top 10 remain virtually unchanged from last June, although Compaq Computer Corp., the No. 3 maker for nearly a decade, threatens to grow past No. 2 Apple Computer Inc. this year and No. 1 IBM Corp. next year.

In addition, Hewlett-Packard Inc., on the strength of its portable machines and its brand strength for other computers, moved into the Top 10. And another big-name computer maker, Digital Equipment Corp., is overcoming its also-ran status in the PC business.

Consumers, particularly first-time computer owners, turn to name brand machines for comfort, said Peter Zandan, chief executive of Intelliquest, an Austin market research firm that focuses on high technology.

"People look to a brand to eliminate some risk," Zandan said. "Hopefully trust is communicated. Business is more willing to look at information ... they're more willing to take risk."

But this spring brought an interesting change in risk-taking to the PC market. For a time, some PC makers believe, consumers were outspending businesses for computers built around Intel Corp.'s Pentium microprocessor.

To some degree, that change resembles the "bottom-up" manner in which individuals or small groups spur purchases of better PCs or software at a company. …

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